EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 99 - July 27, 2003 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 7

The Internet Lady's Top Tips for eBay Beginners

By Karen Thompson

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Being known locally (a rustic village in the U.K.) as "the lady who sells on the Internet," the most common question I get asked is "How do I start"?

What a question !!!

I started trading on the Internet auction sites 3 years ago, and it was 3 months before I realised that my photos weren't even loading onto my item listings! If ever there was an Internet novice, I was it!

If you check out the registration dates of many users on the Net, you constantly read December 29 or something similar! After ravishing the wrapping off our Christmas pressies and discovering the magical new computer (and then spending a week learning how to switch it on), many people hit the auction sites at full speed!

The braver of the bunch don't just stick with buying. Oh No, not for these strong souls, they register as sellers and get on with selling Great Aunt Nellie's silver that has been stuck in the attic for the past 20 years! Then they are bamboozled and bombarded by a cacophony of jargon and buzzwords that can make your head spin. So, for those of you who are on the starting blocks (or even standing nervously behind them!), here are my top tips for beginners:

One: Research Pays Off When searching for auction sites make sure the categories you require to list in are available and relevant to the item you want to sell. For example, if you want to sell jewellery, does the site simply have a Jewellery category that your item may get lost in, or does it have a multitude of "possibles" to decide from? And do you list under gold, silver, old, new, contemporary, costume and so on? Search out similar items to yours and find out which categories they sell best in. eBay in particular has a diverse and seemingly unlimited end of possible categories in which to list, and finding the right one can sometimes mean the difference between a profit or a no-sale.

Two: Follow the Leaders Check out how many hits, (potential customers) have viewed items similar to the ones you want to sell. Most sites, but not all, have some kind of hit counter in the item listing. No point in going through the pain barrier of registering and uploading items if no one is going to see them! Looking to see if items have hits at least establishes if potential buyers are out there! Also check out if the listings that get the most hits belong to people selling the most items. Some items may prove to be interesting and get a lot of hits but they may have a price reserve that means they are out of the pocket of most buyers. See what the major sellers are doing and follow suit! (You should also research "completed items" to find final selling prices.)

Three: The Camera Cannot Lie Well actually it can, but if you intend to list items with photos, and it is usually wise to do so, see if the site has its own photo hosting facility where you can import photos directly from your computer. Also, remember to check if your computer is compatible with the software they may expect you to download.

With the best will in the world, a lot of us don't have the time or patience to learn HMTL and upload from our own webspace. You don't need to give yourself more headaches than you have already got! Get the aspirin well stocked up and cram up on your artistic techniques at a later date. Also look to see if the site charges for its uploading service. Nothing hurts more than hidden costs, particularly if selling lower-priced items.

Four: Be Patriotic Sell in your own country !!! Nobody wants neutral or negative feedback ratings, and this is the area you are most likely to achieve them if you don't at least have a general idea of what you are doing. Many buyers will lose patience with you after you have revised your postage costs a couple of times, can't answer questions on converting currencies and then delay sending the package as you are sorting out the international paperwork!

Remember that time zones can delay communications under normal circumstances, and this time can be substantially increased if problems arise. It may seem more than tempting when you look at global sites offering the potential of a substantially higher price for your goods. But believe me, the glow of a healthy profit fades fast when you get to the bank clutching your $8 postal order and the cashier informs you it will cost $9 to bank!

A friend recently tried selling internationally, and three items went to the U.S. Chaos ensued! One customer insisted paying via Paypal even though my friend had stated cash only in the listing. Problems registering with PayPal delayed payment for 2 weeks. Then there was the issue of establishing what postage method and documentation was necessary. The final insult was that 2 out of 3 of the packages arrived damaged! This meant she hit the area of making insurance claims, refunding the buyers, not to mention providing the profuse apologies that were necessary to maintain good customer relations and avoid the dreaded negative feedback.

I can assure you that this is a true story and certainly not meant to put you off selling internationally, but start slow!!! List only one item and proceed with caution, learning the ropes as you go along. You will make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them, but at least you won't be bombarded with a multitude of problems that could lead to your precious feedback rating being tarnished at the start!

Five: Snail Mail Find out about your resident country's postal services. Particularly look at the weight limits, insurance cover and any proof of posting requirements. The very first painting I ever sold turned up at the buyers having been run over by the delivery truck! (Please note I have used the U.S. terminology and not the U.K. version of "van"!)

I had no proof of posting, and even if I had, didn't realise that I should have purchased additional insurance. The upshot was that I had to refund the buyer 50 for the painting and also the postage costs on top. Talk about learning the hard way! Please also remember there are unscrupulous buyers out there. It's an unfortunate state of affairs, and disappointing that the majority of genuine, pleasant and honest customers suffer suspicion due to the minority, but the times I have heard "I never received the package", the general undertone being "you never sent it, I want my money back", are too numerous to mention. Whatever country you are despatching from, always cover yourself by getting a proof of posting. If nothing else, you can at least prove to customers that you sent the item, and with any luck you will find that most dishonest claims for refunds disappear into the mists of time!

Six: You Need Friends If you need additional help, check out the auction site chat/discussion rooms. There is always a multitude of kind folk willing to hold out a helping hand! You don't even need to join in if you don't feel that confident, just search out answers to the question you are asking by looking at what has been posted before.

So there you have my top tips for saving you time, stress and money. Don't be afraid to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid!) theory of Internet selling. Remember that from here on in, you are on a learning curve and can expand and develop as you feel the need. And never ever feel like an idiot! Everybody has to learn! No-one ever got into a car and drove perfectly from the start, or learnt a foreign language in a day, or switched on a computer and immediately designed their own web page! You may feel like you have entered a world of super-beings, but you WILL catch up and, ultimately, have every chance of leading the race!

About the author:

Karen Thompson has been a full time eBay seller for over 2 years specializing in bringing art to the wider marketplace. Karen's sheep "Molly" is her faithful companion. She says her lifestyle is "rustic" rather than "rural", and she prefers to be called "colourful" rather than "eccentric". Karen takes her work very seriously and herself not at all! Her auction User ID is karen @

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